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Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2003 02:20 pm

Recycle that tree


You enjoyed the beauty and aroma of real Christmas tree this holiday season. Now what do you do with it? Springfield and other communities will have special pick-up services for discarded trees after the holidays. But, before placing the tree on the curb, think of alternatives.

Consider using the tree in your garden. Discarded Christmas trees -- stripped of their artificial holiday decorations -- can provide habitat for wildlife and mulch for plants.

As a shelter or a feeding station for birds, the tree will add color and excitement to your backyard. Secure the tree in an area of the yard where shedding needles will not cause a problem, such as in a flower or vegetable garden. You can wire the tree to a post or deck, nail it to a flat wooden base (anchoring it with twine or wire and stakes), or support the trunk in a five-gallon bucket filled with damp sand.

Redecorate the tree with garlands of popcorn, cranberries, peanuts in the shell, marshmallows, and cereal. Continue decorating by adding apple slices, orange wedges, stale bread, nuts, and suet cakes to the tree.

Most children will enjoy helping make these homemade treats for the birds. Another activity they'll really enjoy is smearing pinecones with peanut butter, then rolling the cones in birdseed or stale breadcrumbs. Hang them on the tree and watch the birds enjoy this messy treat.

Birds also will enjoy a bird feeder placed in the tree. To complete your backyard feeding station, include a dish of fresh water. Continue providing food and water throughout the winter.

Stacking a couple of trees together, on their sides, can create shelter from winter winds and snow for rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels and birds. In the spring, these brush piles can serve as nest sites.

Christmas trees are biodegradable and can be used as mulch. Evergreen branches (boughs) can be removed from the tree and used as mulch. Branches can be laid over perennial flowers such as mums and hostas to insulate the plants' roots. The branches, as with other mulches, will help maintain a uniform soil temperature, protecting plant roots from soil heaving caused by freezing and thawing temperatures. Needles will fall from the branches but will not significantly alter the soil pH.

Tree trunks can be cut and stacked for firewood for next year. This will allow the wood to dry out or "season." The entire tree also can be chopped into wood chip mulch.


Holiday paper, too

Each year, Americans add an extra five million tons to landfills between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Be environmentally friendly and recycle your wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and greeting cards at your local recycling center. In Springfield, Lake Area Recycling Service, 2742 S. Sixth St., has a 24-hour drop off.

Remove bows, ribbons and other package decorations from your recyclable items and dispose of them in the trash. Also, remove plastic items from cardboard boxes. Foil wrapping paper is not recyclable. For speedier drop-off, put wrapping paper in a cardboard box and simply toss the box into the cardboard recycling bin. Plastic trash bags are not permitted in recycling bins.

Next year make the wrapping part of the gift by using a towel, handkerchief, blanket or basket. Or you can make your own wrapping paper from calendars, maps, magazines, last year's holiday cards or fabric.

Tree pick-up

The Springfield Department of Public Works will collect trees that are set out at the curb by 7 a.m. Monday, Jan. 5. Crews will pick up trees through Friday, Jan. 16. City residents can also bring trees to the Southwest Facility on Recreation Drive from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m., Mon.-Fri. The facility will be closed Dec. 25-26 and Jan. 1.

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